Category Archives: GLBT fiction

“In the Direction of the Sun” by Lucy J. Madison— Two Women

Madison, Lucy J. “In the Direction of the Sun”, Sapphire Books, 2017.

Two Women

Amos Lassen

Alex McKenzie has lived a comfortably settled life in her hometown of Stockbridge, Massachusetts but that all changes when Cate Conrad comes to town. Cate is a free spirited sailor and artist with whom Alex falls madly in love. The only problem (and it’s a big one) is that Cate has demons in her past that do not let her live comfortably with her present so falling in love is not really an option for her. She runs away from the possibility of love rather than face it. Of course, Alex is hurt by this and takes to nature to heal her aching heart. She decides to hike the Appalachian Trail. Cate goes to the artist colony in Provincetown where she is free to sail and be on the water. Both women become very aware of the fragility of life yet they must learn that love really matters in life.

If you love nature and you love the concept of love this is just the book you want to read. Aside from the wonderful descriptions of nature, we meet two fascinating women who learn how to live with each other despite the setbacks against doing so. We learn about the pasts of Alex and Cate and we understand the part that romance has played in their past lives and how they understand why it did not work for them. We then see them as they change to accommodate their feelings for each other. We  sense how each was affected by the romance, and how the time spent afterwards, combined with their analyses of what was special and what went wrong, contribute to their transformations into their best selves. We definitely sense the hurt and frustration that Alex feels by being rejected by Cate and we feel Cate’s fear of being rejected and understand that is why she fears being involved and in love with someone else. Both women are aware that life might be passing them by without their being able to experience a loving relationship. As a gay male, I was totally surprised at how invested I was in these two women and how much I wanted them to find ways to love each other. I do not remember ever being so frustrated and upset over a character as I was over Cate.

Writer Lucy Madison has done a wonderful job of bringing nature and the possibility of love together in her novel. Both women are on a journey and need to deal with themselves before they can deal with each other and I am sure that we all know people like both of these women. I was amazed at how Madison has the ability to make us feel what her character feel and we realize that we are on their journeys with them.

“The Resilience Anthology”— A Journey

Heart, Amy, Sugi Pyrrophyta and Larissa Glasser, editors. “The Resilience Anthology”, Heartspark Press., 2017.

A Journey

Amos Lassen

I just received an announcement about “The Resilience Anthology” so I am passing it on to you.

“Take a journey through the worlds of over thirty (C)AMAB* trans writers in what is currently the largest collection of poetry and prose made for and by us. Featuring new work by Luna Merbruja, Magpie Leibowitz, Moss Angel, KOKUMO, Joss Barton, Ariel Howland, Casey Plett, Sascha Hamilton, A.K. Blue, Oti Onum, Rahne Alexander, Tobi Hill-Meyer, Lawrence Walker, Connifer Candlewood, Serafima Mintz, Talia Johnson, Tyler Vile, Lina Corvus, Bridget Liang, CHRYSALISAMIDST, Ana Valens, Larissa Glasser, Lilith Dawn, AR Rushet and more, including an introduction by Julia Serano!”

“Our writers featured in this book exist across the gender spectrum, but do not identify with their birth assignment. Many are trans women, but some are genderqueer, non-binary, agender, or all of the above.”

“Death and Love at the Old “Summer Camp” by Dolores Maggiore— The Summer of ’59

Maggiore, Dolores. “Death and Love at the Old Summer Camp”, Sapphire Books, 2017.

The Summer of ‘59

Amos Lassen

Sixteen-year-old Pina was not looking forward to the summer of 1959 because she had experiences so many boring summers in Maine with her parents at Owl Lake Lodge. She did, however, look want to see Katie again even though she did not really care for hanging with her in the cabins of the old boys’ camp. This changed when she saw Katie who seemed to be so much cuter than previous summers but she could not figure out why she felt this way. Whenever the two girls were together, Pina became both nervous and excited. Lately Pina found herself daydreaming a lot and in them her dead seemed to be telling her things that had to do with love and… with Katie. But these dreams were also about death.

As the summer moved forward so did Pina’s feelings for Katie and there was even more excitement when Doc, Katie’s dad and his friend Joe began with stories about camp and death. Something very strange was going on.

We are taken back in time to that year where Pina and Katie became adolescents and faced the typical teen issues of insecurities and fears along side of the senses of hope and young love and a very mysterious ghost story. Delores Maggiore beautifully brings together mystery and adolescence and has us turning pages as quickly as possible. What a wonderful combination— coming out and coming of age and a real mystery.

The discovery of a mystery, along with her new paranormal feelings and sense of a buried sexuality make this a new kind of summer for Pina. I was so reminded of the summers I spent at camp and the wonderful stories that came out of those times. Maggiore’s sense of detail permeates the entire story and every once in a while I had to pinch myself in order to realize that I was reading and not a part of the story.

Katie and Pina feel that she knows that something terrible happened when their parents were kids at camp and Pina relives some of this through her dreams. Katie becomes her support and her lover although she does not know how to deal with that.

I do not want to ruin the read but I will add that when the girls learn that Katie’s father had a homosexual encounter when he attended camp. Then there was an unreported murder and as the girls find clues to what happened that summer, they also find each other as past and present come together.

“The Closet Chronicles” by J.P. Haynes— Hiding

Haynes, J.P. “The Closet Chronicles”, Sapphire Books, 2017.

Hiding

Amos Lassen

DJ Spencer is a professional and for her the world is black and white. As a journalist she lives with deadlines and she has become the person who “outs” those of the rich and famous that she believes need to be outed. She watches everyone carefully and feels that there are no boundaries.

In her personal life, however, DJ keeps her sanity by spending time with friends and their crazy carrying-ons and as she does, she realizes that she too is in the closet alongside a secret of her own. She has no idea of what is coming and how it will affect everything she does. She is certainly not happy at work, really hating her job of exposing private lives. This comes to a head when she understands that the people she calls her friends turn out to be not who she thinks they are, forcing her to face the realities of her own life.

The irony here is that as despicable as DJ seems, as we get to know her, we begin to like and understand her. She is the daughter of a bi-racial marriage who was often in conflict with her black mother who told that that she would never be accepted by others as an equal. She knew she could never share her sexuality with her mother because it was another mark against her.

We see in DJ the struggles she has had as well as the successes and the realities with which she had had to deal are quite powerful. Writer J.P. Haynes has created quite a character with DJ. This is a character driven novel written in beautiful prose that shows us something of how we live today and that even with the new freedoms we have achieved of late, we still have quite a ways to go.

“Eating Life” by Beth Burnett— Running

Burnett, Beth. “Eating Life”, Sapphire Books, 2017.

Running

Amos Lassen

Beth Burnett’s “Eating Life” is a novel about a group of friends who come to depend upon each other to be happy. We meet Casey Wilde who has spent her life running from everything it seems. She wants no responsibilities and enjoys living with no ties. Her best friend Megan Woodson, is her complete opposite and spends her life with the security of a long-term partner and a well-paying, respected job the best ad agency in Memphis. Then there is Ben Stagg who has lost everything and really has no will to live. Brilliant Wilson is a photographer who seems to be always involved with women who do not have the capacity to love her. And then there is Anna. Eventually these characters have to face hard choices and each character has an influence on the others.

There is a lot of humor in the novel but there is also a lot of heartbreak and I believe that comes from our caring about the characters. This is the art of writer Burnett who has carefully created these people. We are pulled into their lives early on and we soon realize that we care about them especially when they are in conflict with one another. It is Casey who stands out above the others. Her friendship with Megan is solid even though they have different lifestyles. Megan’s life is settles even though she her relationship with her partner Anna has problems as all relationships do and she finds happiness in her friendship with Casey and I believe she enjoys the struggles with Anna dealing with an aging parent. Casey loves life and seems to have a positive attitude about everything. It is through her eyes that we see the reality of life.

Using food as a metaphor for life (“Eating Life”), Burnett looks at tasting life in all of its aspects and then choosing what we feel capable of dealing with. I have deliberately stayed vague about some of the plot and characters because I do not want to ruin your appetite before you sit down to this literary feast of good writing and unforgettable characters.

“The Gate” by Isabella— Chaos

Isabella. “The Gate”, Sapphire Books, 2017.

Chaos

Amos Lassen

Let me begin this review with a disclaimer. I am not a fan of science and/or speculative fiction but I did read this and am trying to give this a fair review. I was very surprised to find myself into the story in the first few sentences—- so much so, that I read the entire book in one sitting. Isabella writes beautifully and seems to have chosen each word especially for this novel.

This is a story about strong women; Dawn and Harley who live hard and love hard. They are pretty, sexy and intelligent but are rules by impulse instead of intelligence. Isabella has taken the good vs. evil story and given it some new angles and it is filled with action.

“The inter-world is in chaos and has become the heart of the battleground in the war between Paladins and Gatekeepers. Harley doesn’t know it yet, but she’s at ground zero. A night of drinking, to forget a cheating girlfriend, is about to change her life forever. A birthmark—or a birthright—sets her on a direct path to a woman who claims to have known her for centuries. Not ready to accept her Paladin mantel, she needs proof—and that proof is out to destroy her.” Now we meet Dawn who was born to be a protector and we learn that protecting a Paladin is to be mated for eternity (without the sex), but Harley is allure a special woman who is compelling and who has risen quickly to The Chosen and this makes things complicated as Dawn finds herself fighting for her own heart, as well as for her biggest nemesis and brother, Lucius who is lord of the Gatekeepers and wants to kill souls before they move to their next life. He wants Harley with him and does not let sibling rivalry stop him.

That is enough of the plot because if I say any more I might destroy a wonderful read for some of you. Let it be enough to say that the characters are amazing and the exploration of supernatural themes is new and fresh. Isabella brings romance, the conflict between good and evil, destiny, and the power of together in a fantasy tale filled with symbolism and that explores the soul. This is a story of destiny and love that will charm you on every page.

“Holding: A Novel” by Graham Norton— Gossip and Secrets

Norton, Graham. “Holding: A Novel”, Atria Books, 2017.

Gossip and Secrets

Amos Lassen

The rural Irish village of Duneen has always been peaceful but that changes when human remains are discovered on an old farm. It is suspected that this is the body of Tommy Burke, the former lover of two different inhabitants and soon the villagers become aware of Duneen’s dark past. begins to unravel. Police sergeant PJ Collins struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life and as he does, he discovers the past of a town that had one been so peaceful as well as the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

Collins is extremely overweight and because of that, he usually dealt only with speeding violations and herding drunks. This changed when he learned that human bones were discovered at a nearby construction site. Every resident of Duneen has a theory about what happened.

PJ assumes that human bones can only mean murder. PJ and Detective Dunne figure that the bones belong to the once beloved town heartthrob, Tommy Burke who has been missing for nearly twenty-five years and whose disappearance caused a mess in the town. Brid Riordan, the neighborhood drunk, had been once engaged to Tommy. Evelyn Ross, the town beauty and orphan tells that she and Tommy held deep love for each other love that only a few villagers knew about.

Norton writes beautifully and has created some unforgettable characters. We cannot help but turn the pages as quickly as possible.

 

“Santa’s Husband” by Daniel Kimmelsmith and A.P. Quach— A New Twist on Santa Claus

Kibblesmith, Daniel and A.P. Quach (illustrator). “Santa’s Husband”, Harper, 2017.

A New Twist on Santa Claus

Amos Lassen

“Santa’s Husband” offers a new twist on an old story and there are sure to be those who will be offended by this. Written by Daniel Kibblesmith, a gay Jew, we meet Santa who happens to be black and his white husband at their home at the North Pole.

This is a witty and sweet illustrated Christmas tale, that introduces us to Mr. and Mr. Claus, and gives us a look at their lives together. We see them sitting by the fire at their cozy home, vacationing at the beach, having an occasional disagreement, celebrating their wedding day, and comforting each other when some people on television disagree with their appearance and lifestyle.

During the weeks before Christmas, Santa’s husband helps with all the pre-Christmas work (including, from double-checking lists and feeding the reindeer (organic gluten-free grains and negotiating labor disputes with the workshop elves). When things get really busy during the toy-making season, he even subs for his busy hubby at the mall to ensure every child can meet Santa and give him their wish list. We are reminded that Santa Claus can come in all shapes and colors and sizes—just like the children and families he visits all over the world each Christmas eve.

The book features beautiful watercolor pictures drawn by artist AP Quach and the book is a clever gift for readers of all ages. Truthfully, before I saw the book, I thought that it might be geared too much toward adults bit I saw that I was wrong here. It is a book for children with a very strong message about love and family. It is perfect to use with children that we want to see grow up into “a generous and inclusive world where love and magic reign over cynicism and exclusion.” It is understood that if we can use Santa “to sell cola and toys, why can’t he be used to sell family and caring?” The words of the text bring the humanity in the characters. Here “Santa is black and the overweight, white, bearded, jolly guy we all picture when we think of Santa is his husband” who helps Santa prepare for Christmas each year, in addition to other chores around the North Pole. When they are not at work, Santa and his husband play with their dog, go to the beach, garden and take naps like any couple does. The themes of acceptance and love make this a cute and important book. The one-liners are great as is the artwork. This is a wonderful look into the true meaning of the holidays that, after all, are about love and family.

 

“The Health Hazards of Homosexuality: What the Medical and Psychological Research Reveals”— REALLY??? REALLY???? REALLY????

MassResistance. “The Health Hazards of Homosexuality: What the Medical and Psychological Research Reveals”, MassResistance, 2017.

REALLY??? REALLY???? REALLY???? (TO BE POSTED UNDER GLBT FICTION)

Amos Lassen

I doubt that any of us would have ever known this book even existed had it not been par/t of the swag in the gift bag given out at the Value Voters Summit where the man who believes he is the president of the United States addressed the crowd made up largely by white supremacists, far right activists and zealous fundamentalists. Whatever his name is the famed p***y grabber became the first and only president to address a hate group. The authors (who are not named claim that this book answers the question: “Why should we be concerned about homosexuality?” It goes on to say that “the mainstreaming and normalization of homosexuality has created a public health crisis affecting us all. There is an astoundingly disproportionate incidence of medical and psychological pathologies among homosexual men, lesbians, and bisexuals. Yet the general public knows little about the baneful nature of homosexuality and its associated addictions and behaviors that invite disease.” (You might want to read that sentence again but without laughing because these people are serious about the garbage that they are trying to feed to other ignorant ***holes like themselves. They claim that this “ book brings together information from widely dispersed and hard-to-find sources, summarizing recent medical and psychological research in laymen’s terms. Sources include the Centers for Disease Control, medical professional groups, published medical research, media reports, plus LGBT medical and advocacy groups – all documented in 1,800 endnotes with up-to-date links.”

The “main topics include: • Why homosexuality is a public health issue, and not just a private issue • The politicized medical and mental health establishments • The “born gay” myth: homosexuality is not innate • How many identify as “gay”, lesbian, or bisexual • The mental health issues: depression, anxiety, suicidality (this seems to be a word), substance use, partner abuse, and BDSM (bondage/sexual sadomasochism) • The self-harming lifestyles and sexual practices of homosexual men and lesbians • The disproportionate disease incidence among “gays”, lesbians, and bisexuals • Why homosexuals have shortened lifespan, chronic conditions, lower quality of life • How HIV/AIDS is re-emerging as an epidemic among homosexual men • The “safer sex” lie and other mixed messages from the medical establishment • How the CDC is spreading false optimism on HIV drug treatments • Bisexuals have the highest incidence of pathologies • How lesbians and heterosexuals are imitating unsafe homosexual male practices • The psychological and medical issues of transgenderism • Child abuse: interventions supporting “transgender” identities in youth.” I have chosen to quote directly from the book because I am incapable of getting down to the levels of stupidity we have here and it is embarrassing form me to see that the book began here in Massachusetts, one of the most loving and liberal states in this country. But wait, it gets even sillier as we read on.

“When it comes to the topic of sexual health, our youth have the distinction of being among the most lied-to generation. For this reason alone, The Health Hazards of Homosexuality should be required reading for all health professionals, educators, legislators, graduate students, and parents.”

“MassResistance began in 1995 in Massachusetts as Parents’ Rights Coalition, focused on preserving parental rights over their children’s exposure to inappropriate “sex ed” in the schools. Later as Article 8 Alliance, the group made a valiant attempt to halt the unconstitutional Massachusetts “gay marriage” court ruling of 2003, and its illegal implementation by Governor Mitt Romney. The name MassResistance was adopted in 2005 in recognition of the perilous times we had entered, especially regarding the abrogation of parental rights, the LGBT curriculum in the schools, the broader silencing of free speech, and lawless governance. MassResistance now has activists and supporters in all 50 states and over a dozen foreign countries. The organization’s research staff compiled the book.”

Here is a sampling of reviews of the book. “This book is everything that is wrong with the United States right now. Disgusting example of intolerance and lack of diversity. The people who like this book and gave it a high review must be pretty mentally unwell themselves to believe these fabrication or they are just too dumb to realize they are being conned OR they hate anything that goes against their inbred belief system. The alt-right is going way too far with their lies and hypocrisy.”

“Absolutely disgusting, I have no words for how awful this is.”

Pseudoscience pedaled by hate groups who are at odds not only with the LGBTI community, but the larger medical, scientific, and psychiatric community. That Amazon would allow hate propaganda to be sold and made available on their platforms is regrettable. The arguments advanced in this book are those of Nazis.”

“Wish I could give less than one star. This book and the damaging rhetoric inside is absolute TRASH.”

“This is beyond disgusting that Amazon will even sell this. All the people involved in putting together this HATE SPEECH just may be the dumbest people on the planet and why are they so obsessed with gay sex?”

“Captured Soul” by Laydin Michaels— Capturing Emotion

Michaels, Laydin. “Captured Soul”, Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

Capturing Emotion

Amos Lassen

Kadence Munroe has had her heart broken with the ending of her last relationship and she tries to heal through painting, and she is about to have her first big gallery show and is very excited about it. But then she learns that Sheva (interesting name—it is the Hebrew word for seven)., the woman who destroyed her last relationship, has a showing at the gallery at the same date. Kadence agrees that Sheva’s work is wonderful but there is something there that causes her to detest the work.

There is something else going on that is tied to this show. Gallery director Mallory Tucker is still struggling to win her mother’s approval, and she hopes that this new show might be one way of making things better between mother and daughter. Once again, Sheva is involved but this time she is in a relationship with Mallory and things are not so good right now for them. In fact, she is part of the trouble between Mallory and her mother. Mallory knows she should end the relationship (besides there is something about Kadence that attracts her).

There is no question about the quality of Sheva’s art; she sculpts in bronze and her work is beautiful in that she has the ability to capture human emotion. How she does this is her secret and she is determined that no one can learn what that is.

From what I have written, we might think that this is going to be a romantic novel and there are romantic aspects to the plot but this is more of a thriller than a romance. The plot focuses more on the thriller than on the romance. We see early on that Kadence has been hurt as a result of a rough childhood but over the years, she has learned to use her feelings in her work thus allowing her to be able to relax. We immediately see that she is a complex character who is nonetheless likable. Mallory childhood has been quite different from Kadence’s. Personality wise, she seems cold and filled with contradictions.

We see the problems that could up as a relationship begins to bloom and this is where this book excels. The author writes beautiful prose and has developed a plot that keeps us turning pages. I would have liked to know more about Kadence and Mallory and I can only hope that one day we will.